Arizona AG: I broke no campaign finance laws

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Wednesday he "absolutely never" had illegal communications with the leader of an independent campaign backing him during his 2010 election bid.

Horne was testifying during the third day of a hearing where he and current aide Kathleen Winn are trying to fend off civil allegations of illegal campaign coordination.

Under questioning by his attorney, Michael Kimerer, Horne repeatedly said he broke no campaign laws.

"We absolutely never coordinated or violated any of the laws," he said. "I absolutely never did coordinate with Kathleen Winn."

Horne said that while he did send an email to Winn urging her to raise another $100,000 from a national Republican group, he made a legal distinction between helping an independent committee raise funds and telling them how to spend the money or helping them design an ad, for instance.

"You're prohibited from communicating about the expenditures ... but there's no prohibition about talking about the money, the contributions," Horne said.

Horne and Winn are accused of working together on a campaign ad paid for by an independent group Winn was running called Business Leaders for Arizona. That "coordination" is illegal in Arizona. The group collected money to buy an ad attacking Horne's Democratic opponent in 2010.

Winn testified Wednesday that she had become friends with Horne during the primary campaign but told him she would stop work on his official campaign to instead help raise money and spend it independently in the general election.

Winn said when she told Horne about her plans in early October 2010, he advised her on campaign finance laws dealing with outside groups and referred her to a lawyer, who gave her advice on what she was allowed to do.

She acknowledged speaking with Horne regularly, but not about her campaign efforts. Prosecutors believe that there is evidence on specific days of illegal coordination, citing calls with Horne on a day when an ad was finalized with a political consultant. Winn says she and Horne only spoke about a real estate transaction that day, which is not illegal.

"I even asked my attorney if I could talk to Tom Horne, and I could talk to Tom Horne, just not about this campaign," Winn said under questioning from her lawyer, Timothy La Sota.

Yavapai County prosecutors are trying to show that Winn consulted with Horne before giving final approval for an ad targeting Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the 2010 general election. They point to a series of emails and phone records showing Horne communicated with Winn as she was giving final approval for an ad campaign overseen by consultant Brian Murray. They acknowledge the evidence against the pair is purely circumstantial.

An FBI agent this week testified that a chain of emails and cellphone records show Horne talked to Winn while she worked with a campaign consultant about an ad.

Judge Tammy Eigenheer of the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings is overseeing this week's hearing.

Her ruling will likely not be the end of the case, however, because Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk can accept or reject her findings and impose sanctions herself. She determined in October that Horne violated the law and must repay $400,000 to donors and pay three times that amount in fines.

Lawyers for Horne and Winn are also laying the groundwork for an appeal if they lose.

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